The NGO warns that the rates are above emergency levels in several areas of Ethiopia
July 7 (EUROPA PRESS) –
The non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has demanded this Friday the “immediate” restart of the delivery of humanitarian aid in Ethiopia, suspended in June due to suspicions about the diversion of deliveries, and has warned of the rise in malnutrition rates in various areas of the country, some already above emergency levels.
The NGO has specified that more than 20 million people depend to a large extent on food aid, especially refugees and internally displaced persons, before adding that among those who face a greater risk are pregnant women, lactating women, children under five years of age and HIV patients.
“Even before the suspension came into effect, our medical teams were seeing alarmingly high rates of acute malnutrition, already well above the 15 percent emergency threshold set by the World Health Organization (WHO),” he said. explained the director of MSF in Ethiopia, Cara Brooks.
Thus, he stressed that the decision “is an alarming event, since it comes after an already extended period of sporadic and irregular distribution of food aid and at a time when the humanitarian situation in the country is already difficult” . “People are facing the worst drought in four decades, economic problems and recurring violence,” he argued.
Data collected by MSF reveals that 72.5 percent of the 8,000 pregnant and lactating mothers undergoing check-ups between January and April this year in health centers supported by the non-governmental organization in Shire and Sheraro, in the Tigray region ( north).
Likewise, 21.5 percent of the 17,803 children under five years of age treated at these clinics suffered from moderately acute malnutrition, while 6.5 percent suffered from acute malnutrition, which is a direct threat to their lives.
The Somali region has the highest number of acutely malnourished children under five, as well as one of the lowest vaccination rates in the African country, exposing communities to the risk of disease outbreaks.
On the other hand, in the health center of the Kule refugee camp, in the Gambella region, the number of children under five treated for severe malnutrition has almost doubled compared to 2022, going from an average of 44 admitted per month to 86 hospitalized per month.
Refugees also face the inability to find work, while many have also suffered cuts in the amount of food rations, including 400,000 South Sudanese residing in the Gambella region, whose rations were cut to 60 percent of the recommended daily minimum. .
Along these lines, MSF’s medical coordinator, Samreen Hussain, has indicated that “a reduced diet puts people at risk of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, such as anemia, which weakens their immune system.”
“With low vaccination coverage, increased malnutrition raises the risk of contracting diseases such as measles and cholera, with many regions of Ethiopia already experiencing outbreaks,” he said, before noting that some vulnerable communities are turning to ” harmful response mechanisms”, including the sale of goods for food and child labour.
“This situation will only get worse with a prolonged suspension of aid delivery,” Hussein stressed. For this reason, MSF has asked all actors to take measures and respond to the needs of the communities most at risk through specific distributions before fully and regularly resuming these food deliveries.
THE SUSPENSION OF AID
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced in June the suspension of the delivery of humanitarian aid to Ethiopia on suspicion of diversion, after which the World Food Program (WFP) stated that it was “temporarily” suspending the delivery of food aid.
Reports suggested that several Ethiopian officials were allegedly delivering food to the military or diverting it for further sale, rather than to the civilian population, weeks after similar allegations of diversion activities in the Tigray region.
In fact, days later the interim authorities established in Tigray within the framework of the peace process opened in November 2022 indicated that members of the central and regional administrations and the Eritrean Army would be involved in the diversion of humanitarian aid.
Thus, Fiseha Kidane, coordinator of the investigation committee created by the interim authorities, stressed that coordinators of various camps for displaced persons and even humanitarian workers would also be involved in these diversions, without identities having been disclosed for now.
The conflict in Tigray erupted in November 2020 after an attack by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) against the main Ethiopian Army base, located in Mekelle, after which the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, ordered an offensive against the group after months of tensions at the political and administrative level, including the TPLF’s refusal to recognize an electoral postponement and its decision to hold regional elections on the sidelines of Addis Ababa.